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Never Trust a Mechanic Who Tells You This

Here’s a Toyota that was saved from the junkyard after a death sentence from a mechanic who either misdiagnosed the problem or was scamming the owner for a quick buck.

To avoid being scammed or misled on a car repair, you really have to analyze not just what the problem might be with your car, but also analyze the garage if it is one you have never worked with before.


Worst case scenario: you are driving through town and all of a sudden, your engine is making a lot of noise, and you see steam coming out from under the hood. Fortunately―you think―you happen to be driving by a garage that you can turn to for immediate help before any lasting damage can happen to your car.

The mechanic at the garage claims your engine coolant is leaking and that after performing a pressure test his diagnoses is that you have a blown engine. A very rough estimate is given of $7,000-10,000 and he advises you to have your car towed to the junkyard, as he hands you a bill of $185 for the diagnosis.

What Should You Do When a Mechanic Says Your Car is Dead?

First and foremost, never take a single diagnosis as a death knell for your car. Cars are often misdiagnosed and/or the mechanic or garage just does not want (or need) your business.

Reasons why this is true can be due to:

  1. The garage’s work schedule is already overly filled.
  2. The garage and mechanic are not experienced enough to handle the repair your car needs.
  3. The repair is too time-consuming or labor intensive for a garage to want to handle. A good example of this is an HVAC problem that requires taking out the entire dash to get to the problem.
  4. It’s close to quitting time or just before a holiday and the mechanic does not want to be bothered.
  5. The mechanic “thinks” he knows what the problem is and misdiagnoses your car.
  6. There are some legitimate repairs garages refuse to do.
  7. The mechanic or garage operates under a diagnosis scam to get a quick $200 and send you away.

For these reasons (and others) the first thing you should do is politely thank the mechanic for the diagnosis and move on to at least a second opinion from another mechanic to make sure what he told you is true or not.

If you have some understanding of cars and are feeling adventurous you can question the mechanic further and ask him to show you the diagnosis done and how he came to his conclusion, but this may or may not be fruitful and can become confrontational. However, it is within your rights to have a detailed diagnosis explained and there is nothing wrong with taking photos of the problem to send to someone you know and trust for their opinion on what to do.

This Toyota Owner Got His Second Opinion

This worst-case scenario is a true story recently reported by the host of the Toyota Maintenance YouTube channel who provided a second opinion at the request of the owner of a 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid that developed the described scenario engine problems at only 107,000 miles.

Follow along with the host as he talks about how the Highlander was originally given a death sentence by an unknown garage that prompted the host to recently offer a repeated second opinion warning for Toyota owners whenever your car is diagnosed needing very expensive repairs.

Immediately after the first video, a second follow-up video is also provided by the host as he shows what it took to raise a diagnosed dead Toyota back from the mechanical morgue of another garage.

According to the host, it is a “Toyota Highlander Engine Miracle” as he shows how the engine’s real problem was not a blown engine but a failure of the water pump pulley and an errant timing belt that was grinding itself away―both of which are cost-effective repairs to keep this Toyota on the road.







If you do not know much about cars and repairs, that is okay. Not everyone needs to be a mechanic and be able to diagnose or even truly understand what repair or repairs need to be done. However, this does not excuse you from analyzing whether a garage is cagy or one that you can trust.

Related article: Toyota Mechanic Shows How to Spot Bad Dealership Service Departments

Here are questions you should be asking yourself and answering with every car repair:

What Should You Look For in a Good Mechanic?

  • A reputable mechanic or garage will typically have certifications from organizations like the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). You can also check for online reviews; a garage or mechanic with consistently positive reviews and a good reputation in the community is likely to provide quality service.
  • Ask about their warranties and guarantees on their work. If a mechanic or garage refuses to stand behind their diagnosis and repairs, it’s a sign of a garage that might be the type to fire the parts cannon until a “fix is found” rather than diagnosed and treated properly

How Do You Know If You Have a Bad Mechanic?

  • Overcharging or Upselling: Be wary of mechanics who consistently recommend unnecessary repairs or services, or who significantly overcharge for their services. Transparency in pricing is important.
  • Lack of Communication: A good mechanic should be able to explain the repairs needed. If they're unwilling or unable to communicate effectively, it could be a sign of incompetence or dishonesty.
  • Refusal to Show Parts: If a mechanic refuses to show you the parts that were replaced or repaired, it could indicate that the work wasn't actually done, or that inferior parts were used.
  • Unprofessionalism: Pay attention to the overall atmosphere of the garage. Is it clean and well-organized? Are the staff professional and courteous? A lack of professionalism can be indicative of a poorly managed or untrustworthy establishment.

In other words, if pays to question your car’s diagnosis and the person or garage doing the work―especially when it comes to expensive repairs or a death sentence for your car.

For additional diagnosis related articles, here are a few for your consideration:

Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on  “Zen and the Art of DIY Car Repair” website, the Zen Mechanic blog and on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites  and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.

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Image source: Deposit Photos